I’m sure glad that I didn’t recently write anything in praise of the surge, or the calm in Iraq, or the great progress we’ve made. I was even tempted at times to temper my earlier, very negative opinions of a year ago. My original suspicions are confirmed: violence is always just around the corner. Iraq is still an unstable country of selfish tribes. There is no unifying principle, leader, or interest among its many peoples.
It’s not surprising that as soon as the Sunnis and Shias stop killing one another–in part because they’ve ethnically cleansed one another from mixed areas–that the various Shia factions start fighting over power and oil revenues. There is no hope for a stable Iraq without a strong leader or a winning tribe in charge of the others. There seems little prospect of either. If Basra’s Shias under Sadr come under control, some other faction will pop up. It’s a hopeless mess, and the patina of democracy and legality masks the enduring reality: the “insurgents” are Iraqi cops, Iraqi soldiers, Iraqi government officials, and others with ties to the pro forma institutions of government. There is no Iraq. Only tribes that ignore, employ, or attack Americans as it is to their perceived advantage. This goes for the Sunni Awakening folks, the Shias in the government, and the Kurds in the North.
McCain suggests national honor is at stake in whether America leaves Iraq. This charge is a reason for pause. But it’s not persuasive. It’s just a habitual response. I imagine that someone like McCain could never tell us when a war is worth quitting: his soft-hearted and romantic notions of “doing right by the fallen” will be a disaster in a civilian commander in chief. Our honor is intact. It was there the day we handed over sovereignty, toppled the Saddam statue, captured Saddam, graduated the first class of Iraqi soldiers, painted the first school, etc. We tried. The folks who have worked with us have been paid handsomely. We tried too much, in fact, and gave the Iraqis too much credit. These people do not deserve American efforts, American lives, American blood, or American prestige, truly valuable and irreplaceable resources wasted every day in Iraq on some of the worst savages on Earth.
The war is a waste of time and resources. Now we know–as we should have known five years ago–Iraq has no nuclear weapons or nuclear prospects. Now we know–as we should have known three years ago–that no Iraqi democratic model is emerging to inspire its neighbors. Now we know–as we could easily see only one year ago–that the Surge has done very little to alter the permanent, political realities of Iraq; the country is still a chaotic, tribal dump, little better than Somalia. Now we know–as we could see in the 2004 Fallujah battle–that our very presence there increases the appeal and reach and recruiting efforts of al Qaeda, equally as much or more than it does anything to fight them on a strategic level.
The only reason the US should have gone to Iraq was to stop Saddam from getting nuclear weapons, scare would-be threats to the United States, and keep Iran and Iraq’s other neighbors from seeking the power that comes with Iraqi oil. We can do this more effectively today from aircraft carriers and troop ships in the Persian Gulf. It’s time to go, and this silly flare up of intra-Shia tensions is as good of a reason as any to tell the Iraqis that we’ve had enough of their moronic squabbling.